that they are spooked. And the morernspooked they become, the less incHnedrnthey are to shut up. Their contradictions,rntheir collective mood swings, theirrninsistent protestations of self-approval,rntheir incessant self-analysis combinedrnwith an underdeveloped ability to processrn—a\ of it indicates a kind of collectivernbefuddlement. It was inevitable.rnThis most self-referential of generationsrnhas arrived at midlife with virtually norncontext in which to appraise their journey.rnIf you have lived only the insularrnlife of the Self (rejecting the example ofrnyour foremothers and, presumably, yourrnforefathers also), doubt—a potentiallyrnpowerful means of growth—will feel likernfailure, reassessment like hypocrisy. Thernlife of the Self results, with the onset ofrnmiddle age, in the worst of all worlds: therninability to examine a lengthening pastrnwith the clarity necessary to enhance arnshortening future. Self-justification is arnbehavior unto itself, one whose emotionalrnconsequence is psychic loneliness.rnOn an intellectual level, the result isrnmerely coarse —sentimentality with nornredeeming sweetness.rnThere is comfort in reaching 50 andrnknowing that you have been right afterrnall about some important things. But itrncan be exhilarating—almost liberatingrn—to realize also that you have beenrnwrong. To know that pride or stubbornnessrnor vanity or fear once blinded you tornsomething you now see as true—this is tornfeel both humbled and emboldened.rnWe may be nothing more than a speckrnon the great continuum, but we are arnpart of it nonetheless. To reject that inrnfavor of the dinky insistence that you andrnyour peers are the coolest people ever is,rnit seems to me, an act of spiritual suicide.rnBut there is a bright spot on the horizon.rnIt is the Generation X-ers, the twenty-rnsomethings held in such disdain byrnChildren of the 60’s for being too cynical,rntoo ironic, and insufficiently idealisticrn— and we haven’t even touched onrntheir disinterest in Changing the WorldrnAs We Know It. Boomers don’t trust Xers,rnin other words, because X-ers aren’trnlike boomers. Wary of political nostalgiarnand put off by middle-aged self-absorption,rntwenty-somethings are watchfulrnand determinedly cautious. And in theirrnway (they are young, after all), theyrnare rigorously independent-minded —rnwhich is another reason boomers are suspiciousrnof them: they are not easily led.rnThis leaves baby boomers with no one tornlead but each other—surely not howrnthey imagined spending their primernyears. The last thing they ever expectedrnto become was ignorable.rnMy son exchanges regular letters withrnhis 76-year-old grandmother, whereinrnthey discuss the relative merits of oldrnArtie Shaw recordings. Not long ago, Irnasked my son what he thought of BillrnClinton. He said, “He’s . . . silly, a sillyrnguy.” My son is 25 years old, a memberrnof the demographic group that is consideredrnculturally cutting-edge, and hernthinks that Grandma’s cool but Bill Clintonrnis embarrassing. If you are a boomerrnelitist, that’s got to hurt. If you are too oldrnto be a boomer and too busy to be an elitist,rnyou might feel inclined to smile.rnWhile you’re at it, score one for our foremothers.rnJanet Scott Barlow writes from Cincinnati,rnOhio. Her website, “Out Here:rnCommentary from Middle America onrnPolitics and Culture,” can be accessed HollywoodrnTen(nessean)rnby Bill KauffmanrnFifty years have passed since the orgyrnof squealing and sanctimony, of perfidyrnand posturing, that begat the Hollywoodrnblacklist. What a cast of charactersrnparaded before the House Un-AmericanrnActivities Committee (HUAC): at thisrntable, communist screenwriters makingrn$2,000 a week scribbling claptrap andrnconvincing themselves that it was revolution;rnand at that table, stool pigeons betrayingrntheir friends, creating on thernAmerican right the nauseating figure ofrnthe noble Judas, whose name has beenrnElia Kazan and Whittaker Chambersrnand Linda Tripp.rnNone of this would have happened ifrnthe film industry had been decentralized;rnif “local photoplayers in Topeka, orrnIndianapolis, or Denver” made thernmovies, as Vachel Lindsay once prophesied.rnBut the coal shortages of the FirstrnWorld War drove movie production tornSouthern California, and the rest was—rnalas, for those who love our country—notrnhistory.rnThe HUAC hearings destroyed careers:rnone highlight oi Tender Comrades,rnthe new oral history of the Hollywoodrnblacklist by Paul Buhle and PatrickrnMcCilligan, is a lively chat with thernfeisty Abe Polonsky, writer-director ofrnthe commie-noir classic Force Of Evilrn(1948). Cinephiles grieve over all thosernfilms that Polonsky & Co. never made.rnBut there are other Hollywood censorshiprnstories that never get told; for instance,rnthe tale of Tennessee Johnson.rn(Not available on video, the movie popsrnup now and then on the Turner ClassicrnMovies cable network.)rnTennessee Johnson, an MGM biographyrnof President Andrew Johnson,rnwas released in January 1943. Directedrnby William Dieterle, whose creditsrninclude the dreamlike The Devil andrnDaniel Webster (1941), one of the finestrnmovies ever made, Tennessee Johnsonrnstarred Van Heflin as the cussed tailor ofrnGreeneville and Lionel Barrymore (onernof Hollywood’s great New E)eal-haters)rnas Thaddeus Stevens, Johnson’s radicalrnRepublican nemesis. The movie receivedrnthe sort of respectful noticesrnoften given to earnest historical films.rnCommonweal judged it “a sincere visualizationrnof American democracy”; Time’srnreviewer thought it was “one of Hollywood’srngrown-up moments.” It was alsornone of Hollywood’s most craven moments.rnThe film originally was titled ThernMan On America’s Conscience. Thernscript, by John L. Balderston and WellsrnRoot, took the tradifional Claude Bowersrnview of Reconstruction and Johnson’srnimpeachment: that is, that Johnsonrn”fought the bravest battle for constitutionalrnliberty and for the preservationrnof our institutions ever waged by an executive”rnagainst Pennsylvania congressmanrnStevens, the brilliant but hatefulrnclubfoot who wished to mistreat the conqueredrnSoutherners like a vast peonage.rn(Stevens, rechristened Austin Stoneman,rnalso played the devil to the archangelrnAbraham Lincoln in Thomas Dixon,rnJr.’s notorious KKK romance The Clansman,rntranslated to the screen by D.W.rnGriffith as Birth of a Nation.)rnEnter Walter White, secretary of thernNAACP. White was annoyed, and understandablyrnso, by Hollywood’s depictionrnof blacks as scraping and bowingrnsimpletons. When he learned thatrnOCTOBER 1998/39rnrnrn